THEdevelopment of Durrow Abbey as a tourist site has been ‘left in abeyance’ according to the Minister of State at the Department of Finance with special responsibility for the OPW.
Dr Martin Manseragh TD, in a letter to An Taoiseach Brian Cowen said that the OPW does not have the budgetary resources to carry out the road re-alignment deemed necessary for safe public access.
Durrow Abbey and the surrounding thirty-one hectares of land were acquired by the State in 2003. Subsequently, the office of Public Works leased Durrow Abbey House and a portion of the lands to the Arts for Peace Foundation. The Foundation, with the agreement of OPW, is undertaking a series of works on Durrow Abbey House and gardens.
Conservation works are continuing at St. Columba’s Church where Durrow High Cross is now housed. Tasks being undertaken by the OPW district work-force include the restoration of the interior including pews and flooring, certain electrical works, and access paths into the graveyard. Following completion of these works, limited public access will be arranged.
The OPW had proposals for the development of a visitor centre at Durrow, featuring the High Crosses of Ireland, added Dr. Manseragh in his letter.
“The existing difficulty with access, and the fact that the upgrading of the sole approach road which could have provided safe access, has been deferred by the National Roads Authority, means that this project has had to be left in abeyance.
“Meetings have been held with Offaly County Council and the National Roads Authority, relating to safe public access. The issue of the County Council funding the works to the roads was broached. The Office of Public Works does not have the budgetary resources to carry out the road re-alignment.
“Until the road issue has been fully resolved, limited public access only can be offered in the short term,” concluded Dr. Manseragh. An Taoiseach Brian Cowen TD had made representations to the Office of Public Works on behalf of Offaly Historical & Archaeological Society on the matter.
In the current newsletter of the OHAS it is pointed out that Durrow High Cross is now indoors. The De Renzi monument of the 1660s sits in a box outside. Access to the Cross is not available to the public. “This is not withstanding five years of work by the OPW and some €4m of public money. Now the story is another €0.75m is needed for a widened road outside. Surely some imagination could be used here to sort our matters. It took two years to get a reply to our letters from the OPW headed by Dr Mansergh, and this was to Brian Cowen. We have been campaigning for twenty years to have the site properly open to the public besides it being a valuable tourist asset etc.”